Release DetailsLABEL Sensory
RELEASED ON 6/6/2006
posted on 6/2006 By:
You know that saying about how the road to hell is paved with good intentions? It’s albums like the Sensory Records debut from Wastefall, Self Exile, their third full-length release thus far, that cements this clichéd catch-phrase in indelible fact. For all intents and purposes, this is actually an interesting album as far as young progressive metal goes, but for whatever reasons every forward step the band takes on this album is followed by an equal or larger step backwards. Considering this isn’t a project comprised of inexperienced amateurs (guitarist/songwriter Alex Katsiyiannis and vocalist Domenik Papaemmanouil performed together in Dead Man’s Tale before forming Wastefall in 2003, both with many years of musical background), I’m a little surprised with the outcome here.
What Goes Right: If anything, Self Exile does have a certain strange sort of charm about it. It’s cheesy charm, but it’s a light cheese, not too heavy or pungent. For being such a young band, this is their third full-length release since their debut album "Falling Stars And Rising Scars" only three short years ago. Productive, yes? It sounds very thought-out and shows great attention to detail and nuance, while highlighting the abilities of each of the players involved. The music is mature and very well-performed, and Domenik has got one hell of a great voice, for sure. In fact it’s Domenik’s vibrant, robustly melodic but powerful mid-range which gives tunes like proper opener “Willow Man” so much color and flair during this ambitious album. His bandmates also perform admirably, there’s not a flat note or sloppily-played segue to be found anywhere on Self Exile, and the tasteful, invigorated drumming exhibition put on display is simply sensational on the flamenco-like “Dance Of Descent” which serves as a strange early highlight to the disc. Oh yeah, it’s all very interesting, but…
What Goes Wrong: The songwriting on this album is a gracefully disorganized mess from start to finish. Now you have to understand these guys know their stuff when it comes to executing a wide and diverse collection of song ideas, the vision is there, but the assembly of these ideas is consistently unsteady. The main problem is the directionless and cluttered mish-mashing of meticulous ideas which try to go too many places at once, and the issue lies with momentum getting lost between the harder, and more supple moments which pepper this disc. I applaud Wastefall for not painting themselves in a corner, but the medium they're using is questionable. The music goes from atmospheric and lilting, to choppy, misplaced Meshuggah-ish staccato, and the unbalanced “The Muzzle Affection” features an unfortunate, nearly Rage Against The Machine brief rapping (yes, rapping) breakdown which derails the song entirely. Why, really, why was this necessary?
It’s not even a case of “look at what we can do!” as far as selling innovation within their own brand of songcraft, because the songs fall apart overall due to the lack of cohesive structure and point of view in a very un-pushy sort of way. There is a definite modern thrash/metalcore vibe that pops up on occasion, and the softer sections which feature female vocals in contrast don’t flow well. Domenik also has a habit of over-emoting at times, perhaps adding melodrama to compensate for the misshapen songs? Wastefall come across as a band that wants to be taken seriously as musicians by wholeheartedly diving headfirst into gentle, mature progression, but at the same time is attempting to tap into the terse crush of Meshuggah, and not really putting more emphasis on one aspect over the other, nor blending the two viewpoints seamlessly (the sometimes awkward production doesn’t help either). This causes a problem because the contrasts between the two extremes of crunch and elegance don’t compliment each other, and the structures fail at establishing any sort of defining, recurring build, or pointedly focused dynamic. It’s badly arranged music with good intentions, that’s also performed well, if that makes any sense.
The Verdict: While there are songs such as “4 Minutes To Abandon” which are breathtakingly good, it’s the overall, disjointed feel of the product that just doesn’t sit well in the end. Unfocused and overambitious, I’d love to hear Wastefall put together a solid album full of self-contained masterpieces, because I know they’re capable of doing so. Self Exile is a perplexing, odd listen, and I really wish they would have planted their feet a little more firmly on this one.
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